What are Skin Tags?
A skin tag is a small piece of excess skin that sticks out from the body. Also called an singular acrochordon, these growths are generally benign and commonly appear on the neck, in the armpits, under the breasts, on eyelids, genital area, face, and in skin folds. They are typically small, about 2 to 5 mm in diameter, but can grow as large as 5 cm in diameter. Unlike warts, skin tags are usually hyper-pigmented (may appear black or dark brown) and hang from the surface of the skin by a small stalk.
Acrochordon are not painful and are believed to form due to friction from the skin rubbing constantly against itself or from clothing or metal jewelry rubbing against the skin. For example, skin tags may appear on the groin from wearing too tight pants. This is why they are most often found in the folds of the body or where friction from clothing is likely to occur (e.g. under breasts from bras).
What Causes Skin Tags to Grow?
The National Institute of Health reports that almost half of all Americans will develop skin tags at some point in their lifetimes. Men and women are affected in equal numbers. While genetics do play a role in whether or not you’ll get skin tags, there are certain risk factors that increase your chances of getting them:
- Obesity – Overweight and obese people tend to have more skin folds. As a result, they are more likely to get skin tags from the friction caused by the skin rubbing against itself. The skin tags will show up inside the folds.
- Diabetes – People with insulin resistance, the precursor to Type 2 diabetes, are more apt to develop skin tags. In addition to causing weight gain, high blood sugar levels weaken the blood vessels and disrupt many processes in the body.
- Pregnancy – Women’s hormones fluctuate, sometimes wildly, during pregnancy. Elevated levels of hormones may negatively affect skin production and cause skin tags to form. Additionally, most women gain weight during pregnancy which may acerbate the problem.
- Illegal Steroids – Steroids interfere with the development of muscles. It makes collagen to bond under the skin, which causes skin tags.
Top Ways for Skin Tag Removal
#1 – Surgical Procedures for Skin Tag Removal
Different methods of surgical excision are still commonly practiced, and that is why we have placed this option as #3 on the list, even though we are concerned about the side effects of invasive techniques.
A dermatologist or similarly trained professional may use cauterization, cryosurgery, excision, or surgical ligation to remove them.
How does it work?
- Excision: With excision, a local anesthetic is applied and then the eruptions are removed by cutting (with sterile scalpel or scissors). Tags on the face are often accidentally cut off during shaving, proper antiseptic should be applied to avoid infection.
- Cauterization (Electrolysis /Electrocautery): Although not very common any more, cauterization involves burning the tags off. This destroys them but may damage surrounding healthy tissue as well.
- Cryosurgery (Freezing): Also known as cryotherapy, this method involves applying liquid nitrogen, argon gas, or Dimethyl ether to the skin tag to destroy it. Cryosurgery is less invasive and, thus often preferred to the other kinds of surgery mentioned above. However, as with any medical treatment, there are risks involved. Damage to nearby soft tissue and scarring can occur. Possibility of irreversible harm to nerve tissue is another problem.
The time and cost associated with these procedures depend on the number of tags a person needs to have removed.
What kind of results can I expect from surgical excision?
The results are guaranteed but chances of scarring occurring at the treated area are very high. However, these scars fade over time. Surgical procedures doesn’t guarantee that tags won’t grow back.
Caution: It’s not safe to surgically remove tags at home. Never attempt to remove skin tags yourself; they can bleed heavily and become infected.
#2 Do-It-Yourself Techniques
Some individuals treat skin tags with the help of blade, nail clippers or scissors but this is not advisable. These only offer temporary solution and tags often reappear at the same location.
- Nail Clippers/Blade/Scissor – If you are able to tolerate a little blood, you can cut off skin tags using nail clippers or medical scissors. Before removing skin tags yourself, rub the area with alcohol or peroxide to kill any germs or bacteria that may be present. Next, numb the area using ice, Ambesol, or other topical anesthetic product. Once numb, hold the skin tag with sterilized nail clippers or medical scissor at the very root and cut it. As the area has been previously iced the pain would be lot less. Dab the blood away, apply Neosporin, and cover with a Band-aid. The area may be sore for a few days, but this is a quick way to deal with skin tags. It is not a good idea to remove skin tags on eyelids using this method.
- Compound W Wart Cream – This cream comprises of mild acid. It is available over the counter and is specifically made for treating warts. Some people also use it for skin tags. Works for some and while not for others.
- Dental Floss – An easily available household item dental floss can be used for getting rid of skin tags. Tie a knot at the very bottom of the skin tag (close to the surface of the skin), cut the excess floss and leave it for 2-3 days. The knot will cut the blood supply to the tissue which will initially turn blue/black and then fall off. Some tenderness might develop at the site. Sewing thread can also be used if dental floss is not available.
The dental floss solution can be safely used on the following areas:
9. Folds of Buttocks
10. Penis & Scrotum
#3 Home Remedies
Apart from anecdotal reports there is no conclusive evidence of options like band-aid, apple cider vinegar, tea trea oil, alcohol etc being either helpful or useless. Techniques like using dental floss or duct tape can be dangerous and cause pain, bleeding, infection and scars marks. Further such at home options don’t make the problem go away permanently.
- Tea Tree Oil
Many people have had success removing skin tags using tea tree oil as a natural skin tag remover. This oil comes from an Australian plant called melaleuca alternifolia, which has been used for centuries to treat skin problems. Wash the area and apply a few drops of the oil to the skin tag. Do this three times per day until the skin tag dies off.
- Castor oil
Castor oil is another natural remedy for skin tags. People who use this oil usually mix it with baking soda to form a paste. Apply the paste to your skin tag and let sit for about ten minutes before wiping it off. Do this twice a day until the skin tag disappears.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that points towards Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) as an effective treatment for skin tags. There isn’t any scientific literature in the matter but the current working theory is that ACV selective attacks the anomalous tissue, slowly dissolving and detaching it from the skin. Moreover, ACV also has anti-bacterial properties, which should protect the area from secondary infections.
Before applying this treatment on the affected area, you need to make sure that you are not allergic or overtly sensitive to ACV. The best way to do that would be to apply some undiluted ACV on an unaffected area, like on your elbow. You should face a minor stinging sensation, (something that is perfectly normal) which should go away in a few minutes. If the issue persists, wash the area with cold water. Then dilute the ACV with equal parts of water on the other elbow. If you feel a persistent stinging sensation with the diluted ACV as well, it means that your body is allergic to ACV and this treatment is not right for you.
If your body can tolerate ACV, simply soak a cotton ball in ACV (or the diluted form, based upon your skin’s sensitivity) and gently massage it on your skin tags for a few minutes. Repeat this at least three times during the course of the day. Doing so should get rid of your skin tags in a few weeks.
For best results, use organic ACV that has the “mother of vinegar” still in it.
- Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol is an astringent, which will get rid of the extra moisture from your skin tags. Also it has strong anti-microbial properties, which will protect the area from secondary infections.
Simply take a nail clipper and clip off the skin tag. As described earlier, your skin tag is an anomalous protrusion on your skin, which means that it does not have any nerve endings, hence you will not feel any pain. However, it is going to bleed! Applying rubbing alcohol in the area makes sure that the area does not get infected, however it is going to sting a lot!
- Vitamin E and Adhesive Bandage
The rationale behind this treatment is very simple. The adhesive bandage stops the flow of blood, oxygen and moisture to the skin tag, causing it to shrivel and eventually fall off. Vitamin E makes sure that the underlying and the surrounding skin remains healthy.
Pop open a Vitamin E capsule and apply the liquid on and around the skin tags. Now apply an adhesive bandage on the area and leave it on for a few days. Take special care while taking a shower to minimize the exposure of the area to moisture.
Take off the bandage and check and see if the skin tag comes of it or not. If it has not come off yet, repeat the treatment. Your skin tag should definitely come off on the second or the third attempt.
- Nail polish
Using nail polish to get rid of skin tags is another purely anecdotal remedy, with limited scientific backing. One plausible theory behind its effectiveness is that nail polish cuts off the supply of moisture to the skin tags, causing it to wither off eventually.
Simply apply nail polish on the skin tags and let it dry naturally. Repeat this a few times during the course of the day. It should get rid of the skin tags within a few days.
One common question people have is “Can I use wart remover on skin tags?” Even though skin tags are not warts, you can use Compound W Freeze to remove the skin tag. Be sure to follow the directions carefully to avoid inadvertently injuring yourself during the process.
Please Note: Although these treatments are effective to an extent they do leave scars, so proceed with caution.
For the most effective skin tag treatments, read our reviews of popular skin tag removal products on the homepage. We tested hundreds of brands and only found a few that really work to eliminate skin tags and help you reclaim smooth blemish-free skin.